Differentiating Between Species Of Mice

By | April 28, 2018

The Fun Mouse: Mouse Info: Differentiating Between Species Of Mice.

The Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) and the White Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) are very closely related to each other, yet they are both very distantly related to the House Mouse (Mus musculus). The House Mouse is what your pet Fancy Mice are.  All Fancy Mice are the same species, regardless of color, markings, body type, coat type, etc. Feeder mice are also your standard Fancy Mouse, they are just given a different descriptive name by pet shops. Neither Deer Mouse, nor White Footed Mouse, can breed with House Mice. While they look very similar, they are extremely different. All 3 of these species are Rodentia, but from there the House Mouse is classified much differently than Deer Mice and White Footed Mice. Deer Mice and White Footed Mice are of the family Cricetidae, subfamily Neotominae, and genus Peromyscus. However, they are both different species. The House Mouse is of the family Muridae, subfamily Murinae, and Genus Mus. The chart below will help visualize how distantly related these 3 species are from each other.

species of mice

Field Mice are not mentioned because the term “Field Mouse” is little more than a generic catch-all phrase for many various species of wild mouse. The term “Field Mouse” may also signify a more specific species (often more than one), yet the species it indicates greatly varies depending on where in the world the term is being used. To add to the confusion, White Footed mice are often called Deer Mice, though this is inaccurate.

Deer mouse- Peromyscus maniculatus

Weight: 10g to 24g
Total Length: 119mm to 222mm
Tail length: 45mm to 105mm
Hind feet: 20mm

species of mice

Deer mice are hairier than the White Footed Mouse and House Mouse, especially around and on the ears. In addition to their hairy ears, Deer Mice often (though not always) have white hairs at the base of their ears resembling white tuffs, as seen in the illustration to the right. Deer mice have a white or very light beige belly and agouti body which can range from gray to a rich red-brown. The shade of the Dear Mouse often varies based on location. Perhaps the most distinguishing visual attribute is their tail. Deer mice have a remarkably noticeable 2 tone tail.

species of mice

The top of the tail is very dark, while the bottom of the tail lacks any pigment at all, as shown in the picture to the left. This continues most of the length of the tail. Other species have 2 tone tails, but not nearly as noticeable as Deer Mice. While their tail can vary in length, it is generally longer than that of the White Footed Mouse and House Mouse as well.

Deer mice prefer moist, cool forest environments and will be found in higher elevations a great deal more than White Footed Mice and House Mice.

White Footed mouse- Peromyscus leucopus

Weight: 15g to 25g
Total Length: 150mm to 205mm
Tail length: 65mm to 95mm
Hind feet: 22mm or more

White Footed Mice have a white belly and agouti body which can range from gray, pink-beige, to red in color. These mice have fur on the heals of their feet as well as larger soles and greater over all foot length than the other 2 species discussed on this page.

White Footed mice can vary greatly from Deer mice. However, this may not always be the case. These 2 species can be exceedingly difficult to distinguish from one another based on appearance alone. They both vary in appearance depending on where they are located, which can cause them to look particularly similar.

House Mouse- Mus musculus

Keep in mind this is outlined for *wild* House Mice, not domestic House Mice which have been selectively bred for different sizes, shapes, colors, coats, etc than their wild counterparts. Domestic House Mice will vary considerably.

Weight: 10g to 25g
Total Length: 75mm to 100mm
Tail length: 50mm to 100mm
Hind feet: 15mm to 19mm

The fur of the House Mouse is also agouti. The tan part of their coat can vary from light dun to a rich brown-red, similar to the coats of their domestic counterpart. Some House Mice have a white belly while others have a light beige agouti belly which gradually darkens from their belly to their back. Their ears are significantly smaller and set further apart than Deer Mice and White Footed Mice. House Mice have a relatively naked and scaly tail in comparison to the other 2 species as well. House Mice tend to smell worse and horde food less often than Deer Mice and White Footed Mice. House Mice also have smaller eyes, body length, and foot length than the other 2 species.

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